Jail warning for £90,000 South Shields benefits cheat

GUILTY ... Maureen Howlett claimed �90,000 that she wasn't entitled to.
GUILTY ... Maureen Howlett claimed �90,000 that she wasn't entitled to.

A BENEFITS cheat swindled £90,000 over eight years by saying she lived alone – while living with her boyfriend.

Maureen Howlett told South Tyneside Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that she was out of work and didn’t live with anyone.

But the 47-year-old’s boyfriend was living at her house in Ada Street, South Shields, between April 2004 and March 2012.

When DWP and council investigators found out, they interviewed Howlett, who said she couldn’t remember the dates her partner was living with her.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances that affect entitlement to benefits at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

Angus Taylor, prosecuting on behalf of the council and DWP, said: “Between 2004 and 2012 she failed to notify us of a change in her circumstances, namely that she was not living alone.

“She received income support and housing and council tax benefits during that time, resulting in an overpayment of £90,845.69.

“Due to the amount involved, this is a case that should be dealt with at Newcastle Crown Court.

“The guidelines say anything upwards of £35,000 should go there.

“The starting point for sentencing in this case is 18 months in custody.”

Ian Cruickshank, defending, said: “When she was interviewed last year, the matters went back some eight years.

“It has been difficult for her to recall what happened but when this case is heard at Newcastle, the court will hear some significant mitigation.”

Magistrates committed Howlett to Newcastle Crown Court to be sentenced.

She will appear there on a date to be fixed and was granted unconditional bail in the meantime.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazCrime